In our article Digging into Studying Archaeology, we introduced you to the discipline of archaeology – the exciting college major that allows you to study past human culture and get your hands dirty in field excavations.
But what happens after you graduate? What does an archaeologist do? What positions are you qualified for? How much will you make? In this article, we explore employment opportunities in the field of archaeology.
Cultural Resource Management
Many archaeologists work in an area called cultural resource management, or CRM. CRM firms ensure that development projects comply with government regulations for managing and preserving cultural resources. At CRMs, archaeologists are hired for a variety of positions:
The entry level position is field technician (aka field assistant, field hand, assistant archaeologist or field archaeologist). The job requires, at minimum, a BA in Archaeology or Anthropology, and prior field experience.
Duties include pedestrian surveying, hand excavation, and recording findings (notes, sketches, photographs). However, pay is low and often hourly, positions are usually short and temporary, and jobs typically don’t come with benefits.
Crew Chief and Field Supervisor
If you have additional experience or education, you may qualify for the next level of CRM work – the position of crew chief or field supervisor. This person has additional responsibilities, including managing field technicians, and for that, they earn better pay (although jobs may still be short-term and lack benefits).
The project manager, or project archaeologist, is the main supervisor of the excavation. In addition to directing the work of crew members, they are responsible for gathering findings and writing reports. The position requires a Master’s in Anthropology or Archaeology, and often several years’ experience. It is typically a permanent job with benefits.
The Principal Investigator can have similar duties to a project manager, but they may also write proposals for new projects, create budgets, hire crew members, and oversee the processing of artifacts. The position pays well and requires an MA or Ph.D. plus several years’ experiences as a Field Supervisor and/or Project Manager.
Careers in CRM show how archaeologists must advance their education and experience to move up the ladder, thus qualifying for more responsibilities and better pay.
Other Careers in Archaeology
Although CRM is a frequent career path for archaeologists, there are several other options:
- Academic Archaeologist: This person works at a college or university, typically teaching 2-5 courses per semester. They may also run field schools, mentor students, and conduct archaeological field research to be published in articles and books. A D. is usually required.
- Museum Archaeologist: This person works at a museum, zoo, nature center, etc. They acquire collections, display them in exhibits, and run educational programs. They may also be involved in caring for or restoring artifacts, authenticating items, and grant writing.
- GIS Archaeologist: This person has specialized training in geographic information systems. They work with spatial data and software to create maps of archaeological sites.
- Cultural Resource Lawyer: This person has a BA in anthropology or archaeology then obtains a legal degree to practice a specific type of law—cases regarding cultural resources, such as how regulations are enforced in property development projects, and who has ownership of cultural artifacts.
- Other Careers: Archaeologists may also work with government agencies (like the National Parks Service), local and tribal governments, or private foundations and labs.
Finding Jobs in Archaeology
Explore your options by learning from practicing archaeologists. The SSA Archaeological Record has a special publication of career profiles, and a list of print and online archaeologist autobiographies.
When you are ready to go job hunting, these resources will come in handy:
- The Society for American Archaeology Career Center
- The American Anthropological Association Career Center
- The Archaeological Institute of America Career Services Website
- USA Jobs (for federal archaeology job postings)
- ShovelBums.org (a popular archaeology job listing website)
The BLS projects that employment of anthropologists and archaeologists will grow 4 percent by 2024. There were 7,700 such jobs available in 2014. With the percentage increase, an additional 300 jobs are expected to be added by 2024.
As such, students going into archaeology should remember that the field is competitive. With your Bachelor’s degree you will qualify as a field technician, but to be a more attractive candidate you will likely need extra education, training, or experience to outshine the competition. By doing so, you will qualify for better-paid jobs and enjoy a rewarding career.
Would you like to learn more?
We invite you to visit www.StudyArchaeology.org to learn more.